Just Back From

Just Back From: Grindelwald, the Swiss Mountain Town We're Loving

Indagare’s Abby Sandman reports back on a visit to Grindelwald, one of the most picturesque corners of the Bernese Oberland and the Swiss Alps. “Surely this isn’t a real place,”

I thought, as my train quietly climbed up into the Bernese Oberland, its yellow cars snaking into view ahead of me as we wove along mountainsides, dandelion-blanketed fields and alpine lakes. I was with my mother—whose face was glued to the window at this point—for a hiking getaway in Switzerland.

While the landlocked country and its jagged Alps are a favorite destination for many Indagare members and staff, the Bernese Oberland is often overlooked for name resorts like St. Moritz, Zermatt and Gstaad. But for anyone prioritizing epic, Lord of the Rings-worthy mountain views (with incredible hiking to match), Grindelwald and the surrounding valleys of the Oberland are worth a visit. Here’s how we easily filled two days, including where to stay, hike and eat.

Contact your Trip Designer or Indagare, if you are not yet a member, to start planning a trip to Switzerland. Our team can match you with the itineraries, accommodations, reservations and guides that are right for you.

How to Get to (and Around) Grindelwald

Grindelwald is easy to reach by train from either Zurich (two hours and 45 minutes, with a transfer in Interlaken) or Geneva (three hours and 45 minutes, with transfers in Bern and Interlaken). On the final leg up into the mountains from Interlaken, be sure to check your ticket to board the train car from the right section of the platform, as the train splits into different directions up the valley. More than a few travelers were scrambling to switch at subsequent stops, having disregarded that detail on their tickets. Once in Grindelwald, train and gondola access continues further up the peaks as well, making all but the most intrepid hikes convenient to reach via public transport.

Day One: First, Bachalpsee… and How to Avoid the Crowds

After checking in at Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof Grindelwald, we marched out to face the mountains. The concierge directed us to First, one of the main hubs of outdoor adventure in the Bernese Oberland, and we trooped up to it with military focus. (We would marvel at the village’s charming half-timbered buildings when we had earned it.) With only a brief stop to purchase a loaf of bread, cheese and ham for trailside sandwiches—a staple for me when traveling in Europe—we boarded the gondola.

During the 20-minute ride, pastoral scenes unfolded below: sloping plains woven with footpaths; brown and white cows grazing before wooden farmhouses; thick clusters of pine trees giving way to steep mountain ridges frosted with snow and ice. Every so often, though, reminders of Grindelwald’s adrenaline-inducing options crossed our view: the brightly colored chutes of two parasailers drifting between us and the mountains; zip-liners zooming by; a family on Trotti bikes speeding down the winding paths.

At the top of the gondola ride, First’s Cliff Walk was the main destination for most visitors. The “bridge to nowhere,” one of the region’s widely marketed activities, was packed with travelers. Instead, we opted to avoid the throngs and hike, first to Bachalpsee lake and then onward down the slope.

A Note on Crowds: Like most hiking destinations in the Alps, the beginning sections of the popular routes in Grindelwald can get busy. And since Grindelwald has an impressive infrastructure network, there are many treks that are easily accessible for the nature-loving masses. But, the masses are often lazy, walk to the first viewpoint and turn around. This was definitely the case for us here at First, where the number of people on the trail dropped drastically after we reached the lake, Bachalpsee.

A stunning mirror in the mountains, Bachalpsee’s still surface reflected the cloud-pocked blue sky and rugged mountains. To make it even more ethereal, a sunshower greeted us upon arrival, only adding to our desire to continue our journey. On the AllTrails app, it only took a few moments to track down the best trail to continue on—moderate terrain but supposedly excellent views.

Related: Abby’s Review of Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof Grindelwald.

After Bachalpsee, we had the mountains to ourselves as we wound along the narrow dirt path, occasionally hopping over streams or darting up a small hill to take in the scenery. Every slope and bend in the trail brought a new perspective to the views, like we were seeing the golden terrain for the first time. We passed only one other hiker.

Just before our descent into the forest, Berggasthaus First, was an ideal spot for a break—a wooden inn with overflowing flower boxes and red-and-white checkered curtains. We enjoyed a mug of cider on the patio looking over the valley below before beginning the steeper trek down through the pine groves and out onto the plains dotted with homes and farms, returning us to the first gondola stop, Bort.

Day Two: The Eiger and Lauterbrunnen

The next day, we took a five-minute train ride up to Eigergletscher for the aptly named Panorama Trail. The day was overcast, the wind, chilly; but the clouds were on our side, and we were never deprived views of the unforgiving Jungfrau and Eiger peaks. In fact, the mossy rocks and red brush strewn across the ever-fluctuating slopes was only made more dramatic by the gray and silver sky overhead. We felt utterly dwarfed by the icy Eiger—one of Europe’s most iconic mountain faces—mere specks amidst a rolling landscape where even the trains were just a thin red streak devoured by mountain tunnels.


was a place where I could believe in epic journeys—a place I could see Frodo trekking through on his quest to Mount Doom (and yes, I was humming the Misty Mountain song for a good deal of this hike).

The trail led us to the tram down to Wengen, where we hopped a 10-minute train to Lauterbrunnen, the valley that inspired Tolkien’s Rivendell. Unlike the rolling landscape of Grindelwald, which sits midway up the mountainsides, Lauterbrunnen is at the valley floor, sliced by a picturesque river and enclosed by uniform walls of rock with plunging waterfalls.

The sun emerged just in time for a dreamy stroll through the valley to Trummelbach Falls, the largest subterranean glacial falls in Europe. We boarded the first lift up to the sixth of 10 waterfalls and raced up to the tenth to evade our fellow tourists. Working our way down, we had prime viewing of each thundering waterfall almost entirely to ourselves. We caught the 4:00 p.m. bus from Trummelbach to Lauterbrunnen village and boarded a train back to Grindelwald.

A Note on Train Schedules: Switzerland’s unparalleled transportation system is highly amenable to improvisation on the traveler’s part. The trains come regularly to each station, and the SBB app (iOS; Android) makes it easy to purchase tickets within 15 minutes of boarding. For travelers with a Swiss Pass, each ride is included except those up into the Jungfrau region—which we accessed via the gondola rather than by train.

Early evening was spent in the massive outdoor hot tub at Bergwelt, the second hotel of our stay, chatting with other guests—the ideal complement to a day on our feet. Later, dinner at Restaurant Kreuz & Terrace included fall specialties, like creamy pumpkin soup and venison with baked apple, chestnuts, bacon and Brussel sprouts—and, of course, spaetzle. We slept with the windows open that night, serenaded by the chime of cowbells.

Related: Abby’s Review of Bergwelt Grindelwald

Until Next Time

Our last morning, we took the train back down towards Interlaken, drinking in every last drop of magic beyond the window. And though I didn’t catch any glimpses of Tolkien’s elves or dragons, the Bernese Oberland had let me imagine, for just a little while, that I could have.

My Grindelwald Guide

  • Bergwelt: A contemporary take on the Swiss chalet, with an excellent spa.
  • Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof: A traditional alpine lodge with one of the best breakfast buffets I’ve seen at any European hotel.

I spoke with the hotel concierges and used AllTrails to help plan my hiking routes. The app helps stay on track and survey recent feedback on individual hikes. Our route:

Hiking from First

First Leg: First to Bachalpsee (3.7 miles) Second Leg: Bachalpsee to Waldspitz to Bort (3.1 miles) Note: This full trail on AllTrails begins at Gross Scheidegg and is 9.1 miles long; we began at Bachalpsee and followed the trail from there.

Hiking From Eigergletscher

First Leg: Eiger Glacier to Klein Scheidegg (1.4 miles) Second Leg: Klein Scheidegg to Männlichen (5.9 miles) Note: We completed the AllTrails version in reverse, beginning at Klein Scheidegg instead of Männlichen.

We skipped the train up to the Jungfraujoch, dubbed the top of Europe, because it is the highest mountain reachable by train. It’s one of the country’s most visited sites, and while the views are stunning, the crowds and extra time (mostly in a tunnel within the mountain—an engineering marvel built in the early 20th century) made us want to prioritize actual hiking.


Contact your Trip Designer or Indagare, if you are not yet a member, to start planning a trip to Switzerland. Our team can match you with the itineraries, accommodations, reservations and guides that are right for you.

Published onMarch 23, 2023

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